Critical Insights: Midwestern Literature brings together fifteen original essays that survey the critical conversation regarding Midwestern literature, explore its cultural and historical contexts and offer close and comparative reading of key texts in the genre that covers 12 states in the center of the country - Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota.
Many of the essays in Critical Insights: Midwestern Literature reexamine how Midwestern literature is designed, consider whether the region is somewhere or nowhere (and why that matters), and how authors might use absence itself as a location for setting not possible elsewhere. The essays also expand the bounds of what we usually think to be literature in a narrower sense by including humor and sports as essential ingredients in an author’s repertoire.
For readers who are studying the theme for the first time, four overview essays survey the historical and cultural context of Midwestern literature, present how critical commentary on the literature took shape over time, and explore Midwestern plays and playwrights over three centuries.
Readers seeking a deeper understanding of Midwestern literature can then move on to other essays that explore it in depth through a variety of critical approaches. Works that may be discussed include Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres, Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams Stories, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Winter Dreams, Garrison Keillor’s Home, and Saul Bellow’s Looking for Mr. Green.
Each essay is 2,500 to 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes.
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From widely varied perspectives, the scholars’ work collected here offers collective readings of several authors and more expansive ways to see others. The contributors of this volume ask new questions, reinforce the way in which traditions are both sustained and undermined, and provide such evidence that Midwestern literature remains a subject of endless fascination and importance.